Best Ever Lemon Tart

Growing up in the South, my favorite dessert was lemon ice box pie prepared with a graham cracker crust, a smooth lemon filling, and a whipped cream topping. Mile-high lemon meringue pie ran a close second. Later, as a college student in France, I discovered individual lemon tarts, made with butter-rich pastry crusts that encased glossy lemon fillings. The truth is I’ve never met a lemon pie or tart I didn’t like! My most recent crush is a lemon tart scented with anise that I tried in Paris awhile back

At Baieta on the Left Bank, I swooned over a little lemon tart with Provençal accents. Continue reading

A Creamy Corn Soup from Paris Tastes Even Better at Home

A couple of years ago while in Paris my husband and I met good friends for lunch at Le St Joseph, a small, unpretentious restaurant just outside the city in the town of Garenne-Colombe. It took 45 minutes in a cab to get there, but the restaurant was (as they say in the Michelin Guide) worth a detour. Every dish we sampled on that June day was delicious and creative, but the one I remembered best was a creamy corn soup dotted with drops of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The French don’t often cook with corn so I was even more intrigued by this first course.

Somehow I didn’t get around to trying the soup after returning home. However, when our first local corn appeared in groceries and farmers’ markets this summer, I thought of it, and Continue reading

Melon, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella Skewers Are Perfect for Hot Weather

For a Provencal cooking class I taught last week, I chose melon and prosciutto brochettes as an opener. Although there were several show-stopper dishes on the menu, including grilled lamb chops topped with Roquefort and figs, and a glorious tiramisu prepared with strawberries and raspberries, those simple skewers were a huge hit with the students.

Wedges of perfectly ripened cantaloupe, ribbons of paper-thin prosciutto, and little
balls of fresh mozzarella, are speared and drizzled with quickly made basil-scented olive oil. The students arranged the brochettes (they made a triple recipe) on a platter, and then Continue reading

A Delicious Salade Niçoise Stars on a Summer Night

Recently, when good friends asked at the last minute if we wanted to eat out together, I suggested instead that our pals come to our house for a light supper. I knew exactly what I would serve—salade niçoise. Only a few days earlier, my longtime culinary assistant, Emily Bell, had mentioned that she had prepared this classic Provençal specialty, adding a few extra touches, as the centerpiece of a summer supper for a small group. When she brought the salad of colorful vegetables anchored by tuna steaks to the table, one of her guests pulled out a phone and began taking a video!

Typically, salade niçoise, is prepared with tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, tuna (usually canned, but very good quality) and anchovies, but there are countless versions and variations. My friend chose baby red skin potatoes, haricots verts, and cherry Continue reading

A Delicious New Twist on Caesar Salad

Last month, my friend and talented cook, Mary Francis, wrote me about an unusual Caesar salad she had tasted in North Carolina where she lives. It was prepared with a serving of warm Parmesan bread pudding surrounded by Romaine leaves and a spoonful or two of roasted tomatoes or red peppers. She wasn’t sure whether the red condiment was tomatoes or peppers, but she couldn’t stop raving about the creamy smoothness of the warm pudding contrasted with the crunchy lettuce. The minute I read her note, I knew that I wanted to try to recreate this clever dish, but I had no free time in May.

Fast forward a month to Paris where I’ve been in June. For the past two weeks I’ve made several versions, all to the delight of my husband, who adores any rendition of this celebrated salad. Continue reading

Summer Lunch in Paris of Roasted Cod on a Bed of Vegetables

Recently, my husband and I invited friends to dinner while they were in Paris, but, as it turned out, this couple had only lunch slots free. So, we decided to have a weekend lunch instead. I loved the idea of a mid-day meal, so I planned a simpler menu than I would have for a dinner.

To anchor the menu, I roasted thick cod fillets. Dotted with butter and seasoned generously with salt and cayenne pepper, they needed less than 15 minutes in the oven. Continue reading

Creamy Asparagus Flans for Spring Brunch

Hadley, a neighboring town near Amherst, Massachusetts, where I live, is famous for its asparagus. In late spring, around mid-May, when the crops finally arrive, everyone rushes to buy a bunch. Farmers sell bundles of the handsome spears at outdoor markets and roadside stands, and not to be outdone, our groceries all display the verdant stalks with signs noting that they are LOCAL! Continue reading

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Mango Salsa for Memorial Day

While going through a folder of old recipes recently, I spotted one for curry-scented lamb burgers topped with a simple yogurt sauce plus dollops of mango chutney. I remembered how much I had loved all the vibrant spices in this dish created over a decade ago, and was anxious to make it again–but with a few changes. In place of lamb I decided on turkey (both dark and white meat for a juicy mix), and instead of purchased mango chutney, I would opt for fresh mango salsa.

The new version turned out to be as tempting as the original. The turkey meat benefitted from its spiced layer of seasonings. The mango salsa was, with its accent of lime and punch of heat from a serrano pepper, far better than store-bought chutney. Grilled until slightly charred outside and well done inside, this variation of the burgers was a big hit with Continue reading

A Creamy Potato Gratin Topped with Lamb Chops for Spring

Scalloped potatoes or au gratin potatoes! Who doesn’t like those dishes! Rich and indulgent, both of these potato casseroles are prepared with layers of sliced potatoes baked with cream and/or milk. (They differ only in that the au gratin variety typically has an addition of cheese.) It’s hard to improve on either of these favorites, but recently I spotted a recipe for a French version with a new twist. Lamb chops were set atop a pan of layered potatoes during their last few minutes in the oven. The meat cooked to a rosy hue as the potatoes baked to a golden tenderness.

In that French creation the potatoes were baked with stock and herbs, but with no milk, cream, or cheese. In my mind, I saw the pommes de terre cooked more traditionally with the irresistible trio of dairy ingredients. It took several tries to balance the amount of milk and Continue reading

Coconut Raspberry Parfaits Make a Sweet Ending for My Book Club

The members of my book club love food as much as they do books. So, when it’s my turn to host the group, I spend a little extra time preparing dishes for sampling during the “very important social hour” that precedes our literary discussion. Yesterday, everyone arrived at my house on a glorious spring day (one of a handful so far this season). I had set out a seasonal spread, including a pot of fresh green pea soup with diced feta and tarragon as garnishes, a platter of grilled asparagus spears with a mayonnaise sauce, plus whipped feta with dill surrounded by toasted baguette slices, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. For a sweet ending there were coconut and raspberry parfaits. True to form, the readers ate with gusto, leaving few leftovers!

Most of the dishes I prepared were favorites I have cooked before, but the coconut and Continue reading